Recently, a state appellate court issued an opinion in a New Jersey alimony case involving a husband’s request to modify his alimony obligations based on changed circumstances. Typically, when a court orders alimony, if either the paying or receiving spouse can prove that their circumstances changed since the court’s order, the alimony obligation may be modified. In some cases, the court may terminate the payor’s obligation entirely. Courts will also modify alimony obligations if the parties agree to same. However, as discussed below, courts will not enforce an agreement if it is premised on one party’s false statements.
The Facts of the Case
In the case Meyers v. Meyers, 2021 WL 6015782, Superior Court Docket No. A-1944-19, Husband and Wife were married for more than thirty years before getting divorced in January 2011. In a divorce settlement agreement, Husband, who was a high-level executive at the time, agreed to pay the Wife $12,000 per month in alimony. However, several years later, the Husband was laid off. He then petitioned the court, seeking a reduction in his alimony payments. In his petition, Husband claimed he was disabled and unable to work.
In a subsequent consent order, the parties agreed that the monthly alimony payment would be reduced to $3,200 per month. However, Wife later learned that Husband was working and not disabled, as he claimed to be. Wife then sought to invalidate the consent order. The trial court agreed with the Wife, vacating the consent order and reinstituting the $12,000 monthly alimony payment.
On appeal, Husband argued that the trial court should not have reinstated the initial alimony payments by vacating the consent order. He claimed that Wife failed to prove the consent order was secured by fraud.
In finding in favor of Wife, the court emphasized that the Wife proved her ex-husband acted fraudulently. The court explained that Husband knew he was able to work and intentionally lied in hopes of paying less alimony. The court also held that the only reason the monthly alimony payment was reduced was because of this lie.
In New Jersey, if a court’s decision regarding alimony is based on one party’s fraud, it can be vacated. The idea is that it would be unfair to enforce the reduced alimony amount considering Husband lied. Therefore, the appellate court affirmed the lower court’s ruling, reinstating the $12,000 monthly alimony payments.
Are You Dealing with a New Jersey Alimony Dispute?
If you are involved in a dispute over alimony, it is essential that you work with a lawyer who is committed to aggressively gathering a complete picture of the financials of each party prior to involving the court or beginning negotiations. Accuracy and completeness are critical. With over a decade of experience handling all types of alimony cases, Scully Family Law is prepared to leave no stone unturned when it comes to finding assets and all sources of income, and knowing what to do with them when it is time to address support obligations.
Claire Scully is a Freehold family law attorney representing clients throughout New Jersey and New York in a variety of family matters, including divorce, alimony, child support, and restraining orders. Our firm provides every client with custom-tailored services and undivided attention, including 24/7 availability by cell phone. To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation, call us today at 743-462-1122. You can also reach us online through our convenient contact form.